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This updated HTML5 simulation offers a rich array of tools to explore periodic motion, Hooke's Law, and energy conservation in a spring system. It initiates with a very simple idealized spring system (no damping) in which the only variable is the spring constant. Next, vectors of velocity, acceleration, gravity, and spring tension are introduced (still no damping). The next section introduces energy bar graphs and allows users to change the mass of the weight and set the level of damping. Finally, put it all together in the "Masses and Springs Lab" activity. In each activity, users can change the gravitational constant by moving a slider or choosing pre-set gravitational conditions for Earth, Moon, Jupiter, and Planet "X".

This resource is part of the PhET project, a growing collection of simulations and teacher-created support materials for secondary teachers and learners.
Editor's Note: Teachers -- Registered PhET users have free access to a robust set of lessons, homework/problem sets, clicker questions, and quantitative exercises designed to specifically accompany the "Masses and Springs" simulation. You'll find support materials for middle school, high school, and lower-level undergraduate physics courses. Registration is easy and free!
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Motion in One Dimension
= Acceleration
= Velocity
- Newton's Second Law
= Interacting Objects
- Statics of Rigid Bodies
= Equilibrium
- Work and Energy
= Conservation of Energy
Education Practices
- Active Learning
Oscillations & Waves
- Oscillations
= Damped Oscillators
= Springs and Oscillators
- High School
- Middle School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Interactive Simulation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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Free access
© 2018 University of Colorado at Boulder
Additional information is available.
acceleration graph, damping, force interactions, force pairs, forces, gravity force, mass equilibrium, net force, spring constant, velocity graph
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created December 29, 2018 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
December 29, 2018 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
August 15, 2018

Next Generation Science Standards

Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions (HS-PS2)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
  • Analyze data to support the claim that Newton's second law of motion describes the mathematical relationship among the net force on a macroscopic object, its mass, and its acceleration. (HS-PS2-1)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Forces and Motion (PS2.A)
  • The motion of an object is determined by the sum of the forces acting on it; if the total force on the object is not zero, its motion will change. The greater the mass of the object, the greater the force needed to achieve the same change in motion. For any given object, a larger force causes a larger change in motion. (6-8)
  • All positions of objects and the directions of forces and motions must be described in an arbitrarily chosen reference frame and arbitrarily chosen units of size. In order to share information with other people, these choices must also be shared. (6-8)
  • Newton's second law accurately predicts changes in the motion of macroscopic objects. (9-12)
Types of Interactions (PS2.B)
  • Forces that act at a distance (electric, magnetic, and gravitational) can be explained by fields that extend through space and can be mapped by their effect on a test object (a charged object, or a ball, respectively). (6-8)
Definitions of Energy (PS3.A)
  • Energy is a quantitative property of a system that depends on the motion and interactions of matter and radiation within that system. That there is a single quantity called energy is due to the fact that a system's total energy is conserved, even as, within the system, energy is continually transferred from one object to another and between its various possible forms. (9-12)
Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer (PS3.B)
  • Mathematical expressions, which quantify how the stored energy in a system depends on its configuration (e.g. relative positions of charged particles, compression of a spring) and how kinetic energy depends on mass and speed, allow the concept of conservation of energy to be used to predict and describe system behavior. (9-12)
Relationship Between Energy and Forces (PS3.C)
  • When two objects interact, each one exerts a force on the other that can cause energy to be transferred to or from the object. (6-8)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Cause and Effect (K-12)
  • Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems. (6-8)
Systems and System Models (K-12)
  • Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions. (6-8)
  • When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models. (9-12)
Energy and Matter (2-12)
  • Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion). (6-8)
  • Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system. (9-12)
Structure and Function (K-12)
  • Structures can be designed to serve particular functions by taking into account properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used. (6-8)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
  • Analyzing data in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to extending quantitative analysis to investigations, distinguishing between correlation and causation, and basic statistical techniques of data and error analysis. (6-8)
    • Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena. (6-8)
  • Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)
    • Analyze data using computational models in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims. (9-12)
Developing and Using Models (K-12)
  • Modeling in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to developing, using and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems. (6-8)
    • Develop and use a model to describe phenomena. (6-8)
  • Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds. (9-12)
    • Develop and use a model based on evidence to illustrate the relationships between systems or between components of a system. (9-12)
Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (5-12)
  • Mathematical and computational thinking at the 9–12 level builds on K–8 and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions. (9-12)
    • Use mathematical representations of phenomena to describe explanations. (9-12)
    • Create or revise a simulation of a phenomenon, designed device, process, or system. (9-12)

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4E. Energy Transformations
  • 6-8: 4E/M2. Energy can be transferred from one system to another (or from a system to its environment) in different ways: 1) thermally, when a warmer object is in contact with a cooler one; 2) mechanically, when two objects push or pull on each other over a distance; 3) electrically, when an electrical source such as a battery or generator is connected in a complete circuit to an electrical device; or 4) by electromagnetic waves.
4F. Motion
  • 3-5: 4F/E1a. Changes in speed or direction of motion are caused by forces.
  • 3-5: 4F/E1bc. The greater the force is, the greater the change in motion will be. The more massive an object is, the less effect a given force will have.
  • 6-8: 4F/M3a. An unbalanced force acting on an object changes its speed or direction of motion, or both.
  • 9-12: 4F/H1. The change in motion (direction or speed) of an object is proportional to the applied force and inversely proportional to the mass.
  • 9-12: 4F/H4. Whenever one thing exerts a force on another, an equal amount of force is exerted back on it.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
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Record Link
AIP Format
(PhET, Boulder, 2018), WWW Document, (https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/masses-and-springs).
PhET Simulation: Masses and Springs, (PhET, Boulder, 2018), <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/masses-and-springs>.
APA Format
PhET Simulation: Masses and Springs. (2018, August 15). Retrieved May 20, 2019, from PhET: https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/masses-and-springs
Chicago Format
PhET. PhET Simulation: Masses and Springs. Boulder: PhET, August 15, 2018. https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/masses-and-springs (accessed 20 May 2019).
MLA Format
PhET Simulation: Masses and Springs. Boulder: PhET, 2018. 15 Aug. 2018. 20 May 2019 <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/masses-and-springs>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PhET Simulation: Masses and Springs}, Publisher = {PhET}, Volume = {2019}, Number = {20 May 2019}, Month = {August 15, 2018}, Year = {2018} }
Refer Export Format

%T PhET Simulation: Masses and Springs
%D August 15, 2018
%C Boulder
%U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/masses-and-springs
%O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D August 15, 2018
%T PhET Simulation: Masses and Springs
%V 2019
%N 20 May 2019
%8 August 15, 2018
%9 text/html
%U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/masses-and-springs

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